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What Not to Do When Blowing the Whistle

Date: Thursday, August 12, 2010
Author: Shareen Pathak, Fins.com

Under the new financial regulation law, informants can earn a hefty sum if they provide valuable information about illicit activities within their firms.

But in one recent high-profile banking scandal, Bradley Birkenfeld, who blew the whistle on the tax evasion tactics of wealthy UBS clients (and how the bank aided and abetted them) found himself in jail instead.

If you too, are itching to send a note to the SEC about some insider trading practices at your firm, don't make the mistakes Birkenfeld did. Here are some errors to avoid, gleaned from a series in the Global Post.

1. Keep your penchant for private jets, expensive watches and premier Wimbledon seats under wraps. If you're super-visible about your luxury lust, it may work against you in court when you decide to squeal and lawyers put your character under the microscope.

2. If, perchance, you find a document that essentially shows that your entire job is comprised of illegal activities, think twice about being too vocal about it. The DoJ might think you're in it for the fame and glory and start questioning your motives. Make it sound like you're doing it because of the ethics violation, not for a photo op.

3. Ensure that your former clients don't know too much damning information about you, in case they suddenly decide to become your arch-nemesis. Birkenfeld's former "golden goose," Igor Olenicoff, decided to spurn his ex-banker and provide information to the authorities instead.

Avoid these missteps, and you may be on your way to a thriving whistle-blowing career in no time.